DUNUMS is a beautiful array of song-scapes, at times delicate, at times jarring. It is the self-titled debut album by composer and multi-instrumentalist Sijal Nasralla. He wrote and recorded all of the pieces while residing in Asheville, North Carolina, and collaborated with local avant rockers to make the album come to life. Drummer Ryan Oslance (Ahleuchatistas) appears on several tracks, and Moog contributions by Rosser Douglas (Hello Hugo) make their way into the album, as well as organ work by Kevin Lloyd Hill. The album was recorded and mixed by sound engineer David Barrett, who has worked with acclaimed bands such as Twin Shadow, Little Dragon, and Mute Math.
In Arabic, the word “dunum” (dūnam) is the most arbitrary unit of land measurement, used to quantify spaces differently by farming communities of the Levant. In DUNUMS, Nasralla draws from his background as an experimental guitarist to explore new terrain, pushing boundaries and exploring his own identity as a Palestinian raised in America. The result is unique. Ambient drones and lively guitar riffs pierce through dystopian yet tender walls of noise. Feelings of surreal, vast emptiness are suffused with sunlight. Nasralla weaves rhythm, sound and mood to create an innovative new medium through which solidarity with Palestine can be expressed.
“Eater Syria” is a breathtaking journey where dreamlike lyrics in Arabic are punctuated by catchy guitar riffs that evolve into unabashed onslaughts of sound. “Note 14” is stormy and haunting, with unexpected ghostly vocals that grip you and tickle your core. “Sides” is uplifting, with some disarmingly happy moments amidst complex dissonance and a warm bed of rhythm. “So White” has an almost surf-rock quality, pulsating with fiery, tangling guitar lines. “B.N.T.E” is a masterpiece of subtlety, maybe evoking the land scarred by tumult, memories in ruin. “Blood Moon” resonates with its own kind of possibility, melodic spontaneity and rejection of conventions in favor of fresh, uncharted territories. “The Vaguries Suite” is a like a dark cloud lifting from your mind, revealing patterns you never knew existed, places you hadn’t thought of. Maybe you are being dragged to a weird party. “A Golden Wrapper” catches you sideways, upside down on a garden gate, not ready for the gleaming, raw sunburn that might stay with you a while. TWIAFTP (“The World is a Fucking Terrible Place”) is a soothing masterpiece, both charming and dreadful.
An uncertain playfulness permeates the entire record.
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